Covid jabs being delivered to some over-70s at Epsom racecourse

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The vaccination programme appears to be continuing at pace at the special Epsom Racecourse facility.   Residents posting on social media have been generally impressed by the operation’s efficiency.  Others may still feel a little nervous about making the trip.  Fetcham residents Tim Albert, and his wife Barbara, were among the over-70s who got the call last week. The FRA asked Tim to tell us what getting the jab was like for him.

By Tim Albert

One of the advantages of having to wear a mask, I thought, would be that no-one would be able to see me wince as the needle punctured my skin.

I had watched the long lines of politicians and celebrities bare their arms before the TV cameras to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, and then receiving their jabs without so much of a flicker of their eyelids. I would never be so brave, I thought, as I sat down on a nondescript chair in a spacious hall underneath a stand at Epsom Racecourse. I bared my arm, and braced myself for the pain.

I need not have worried. The needle went in so smoothly that I was still bracing myself when I was told that it was all done.

Fetcham resident Tim Albert gets the jab. "I needn't have worried," he says.

It was a welcome end to a wait that – as more and more of our younger friends were getting the invitation – was looking as if it would stretch away from us for ever. Then on a Tuesday morning I saw a text, and within 10 minutes Barbara and I had managed to secure two appointments at the same time for the Friday afternoon.

The day itself did not start well, however.  As we were waking up we heard the news that the German government was going to recommend that people over 65 should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which apparently was the one used at Epsom.

Later, as the deadline approached, we kitted ourselves out with masks (two for me; one for Barbara), hand gel, disposable gloves (not needed), several layers of short sleeved shirts and raincoats (just in case). And, like most others I suspect, we set off a little early, expecting a long wait in a line of traffic.

We sailed through of course, following the clearly written signs.  At the gate, the first of several masked attendants directed us on our way, and the last directed us from our car into one of the stands.

Here again our progress was swift. We adjusted our masks, gelled our hands and moved to the first desk. This involved looking at our confirmations and issuing us with the paperwork.

Then out into the hall – with its high ceiling, a clock that didn’t work and several TV monitors that did, bisected by screens beyond which we could see glimpses of blue-smocked staff,  yellow sharps bins and a table groaning with medical supplies. We were directed to a pair of chairs, at the back of one of many short lines, and our credentials and medical history were further checked.

After a few minutes, the people in the first chairs were called through the partition, and – with a slight pause for a bit of cleaning – we moved forward. After about five minutes we moved up to the first row, and then it was our turn to face the Vaccinator.

It was hard to make small talk behind masks so we didn’t. She was calm, reassuring and methodical – and a dab hand with the needle.

We were then directed to stay 15 minutes on another caterpillar-line of spaced chairs.  We sat under reminders of the real purpose of this space – a couple of horse racing pictures and a sign saying totaliser – and started to get bored.

Earlier I had heard from one friend, who had taken his 88-year-old mother-in-law on the first day, that it was chaos. But that was weeks ago, and they have clearly had time to work things out – and practice their needle-work.

Some 15 minutes later, when we had both failed to have a severe reaction, we were allowed to leave. On the way home I read an article about the mistakes we are still making in this pandemic: the last item was assuming that after the first jab you could abandon all precautions and mix freely with friends and family. So there is still some way to go. But to use an apt metaphor: we feel we are now in the home straight.  

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